In recent months, the Transportation Security Administration ("TSA") has started to post signs in airport security lines all over the United States making travelers aware that there is a new requirement that State-issued identification cards or licenses need to meet in order to be valid. Effective on October 1, 2020, all passengers flying within the U.S. will be required to present REAL ID compliant with the REAL ID ACT in order to board an aircraft traveling within the United States.
What in the Real ID Act?
Drafted and signed by President George W. Bush in 2005 in the wake of the September 11th attacks, the REAL ID Act is intended to ensure driver's licenses are more uniform from state to state and more difficult to forge. States have had more than a decade to "establish minimum security standards for state issued driver's licenses and identification cards," and the time is almost up to become compliant.
Starting October 1, 2020, only IDs from a state in compliance with the REAL ID Act or an extension will be accepted when boardingfederally regulated commercial aircraft in the U.S. for domestic flights.
So why should you care?
Currently, 45 states are in compliance with the REAL ID Act, according to information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA (for a full map, see https://www.dhs.gov/realid). All 5 states that currently issue ID's that are non-compliant with the REAL ID Act have an extension until October, 2019 that allows them to accept non-compliant forms of identification. This means, however, that by the time October 1, 2020 comes around, all passengers from any state may not board an aircraft without a REAL ID compliant form of identification.
Passengers who do not have a REAL ID Act compliant form or ID will need to have some kind of alternative identification, the most common being a passport or military ID (for a full list of acceptable forms of ID, see https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification).
What does this mean for you?
If you are a resident of one of the compliant states, nothing changes for you. The only form of identification you need for a domestic flight is your driver's license. A State-issued ID is already compliant if it has a star in the top right corner of the card. Many compliant states have already been doing this for years, so many citizens will not have to obtain a new ID to be compliant.
For residents of a noncompliant state, it is advisable to have a valid passport or other form of acceptable ID ready if planning to travel after October, 2019 at the earliest. Plan accordingly, since it takes 4-6 weeks to get a new passport.
If you are planning to travel with children under the age of 18, the requirements will not impact them. The TSA does not require children under 18 years old to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States.